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Byrd homers in Pirates debut

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- Marlon Byrd had to wait through three frustrating plate appearances before finally making his mark Wednesday night in his Pittsburgh Pirates debut.

One day after being acquired from the New York Mets in a trade, Byrd hit a three-run home run to help spark the Pirates to a 7-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park.

Byrd's first home run with the Pirates, in the seventh inning off Burke Badenhop, was his 22nd of the season. The ball landed in the shrubbery beyond the center field fence, helping Pittsburgh end a three-game losing streak.

The blast put the Pirates ahead 7-1 as they tried to keep pace in the National League Central with the St. Louis Cardinals, who entered the day 1 1/2 games ahead of Pittsburgh.

The homer also earned Byrd the first curtain call of his 12-year career.

"I enjoyed every bit of it," Byrd said with a smile. "(Pitcher) A.J. Burnett told me to go back out of dugout. I didn't even pay attention. Coming in, I was so excited, and then I ran back out and got the curtain call. It's something I'm going to remember for a long time.

"I was in New York and we were fighting to the end. But to come to Pittsburgh in such a great city with such a great sports tradition, it's exciting to be a part of this with a chance to go to the playoffs."

Byrd lined into a double play in the first inning, as pitcher Tom Gorzelanny snared the ball and threw to first base to double off Andrew McCutchen. Byrd then struck out swinging to end a 14-pitch battle with Gorzelanny in the fourth and whiffed again an inning later.

Byrd received another first following the long at-bat -- a standing ovation for striking out.

"That was just an incredible at-bat," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.

"The guy was just grinding the whole at-bat," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was something to see."

Pittsburgh got to Gorzelanny quickly, scoring a run before the left-hander retired a batter in the first. Josh Harrison singled, Jordy Mercer walked and McCutchen hit an RBI single.

The Pirates made it 2-0 in the second when McCutchen led off with a single and scored on Gaby Sanchez's two-out single.

Jose Tabata tripled to lead off the fifth and came home on a single by Harrison, who scored on Mercer's double to increase the lead to 4-0.

Roenicke felt Gorzelanny tired after Byrd's marathon at-bat in the fourth, and the pitcher did not disagree.

"I could have done without that (at-bat)," Gorzelanny said with a small smile. "It was tough. I threw quite a few good pitches that he seemed to foul off. It just kept going on and on, and I wasn't going to give in. Somebody was going to give in, and it wasn't going to be me."

Byrd, catcher John Buck and $850,000 came from the Mets in exchange for two prospects, right-handed reliever Vic Black and second baseman Dilson Herrera. Byrd and Buck joined the Pirates on Wednesday, though Buck was not in the lineup. He will serve as the backup catcher to Russell Martin.

While Byrd's homer resulted in a curtain call, plenty of other Pirates had good offensive performances.

Harrison, subbing for second baseman Neil Walker, had three hits and scored three runs from the leadoff spot. Sanchez, subbing for first baseman Garrett Jones, also had three hits. Mercer and McCutchen added two hits each.

Charlie Morton (6-3) won his third straight decision as he allowed just one unearned run in 6 2/3 innings. He gave up five hits, walked three and struck out two.

Now 14 months removed from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, Morton is 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA in his past five starts.

"I think I'm just getting a better feel for the zone, for pitching again," Morton said. "I'm just getting more comfortable.

Pittsburgh's Vin Mazzaro and Jared Hughes combined for 2 1/3 scoreless relief innings.

Gorzelanny (3-6) lasted 5 1/3 innings and gave up four runs on nine hits while walking one and striking out five.

Carlos Gomez had two hits for the Brewers, whose lone run came on a throwing error by Martin in the seventh inning.

NOTES: The Pirates optioned LHP Jeff Locke and C Tony Sanchez to Double-A Altoona to clear space on the 25-man roster for the additions of Byrd and Buck. Locke will not actually report to Altoona. He'll miss his scheduled start Sunday against the Cardinals, then be recalled with Sanchez on Tuesday, the day after the Eastern League season ends. ... Pittsburgh LHP Wandy Rodriguez (strained left forearm) was found to have no structural damage after being examined Tuesday by noted orthopedist James Andrews in Gulf Breeze, Fla. Rodriguez will resume a throwing program by the weekend. ... Pirates RHP Jason Grilli pitched a simulated game Wednesday and is tentatively scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Saturday with Altoona. ... Milwaukee rookie LF Khris Davis got his first day off since Aug. 14. ... Walker's day off was his first since July 30. ... Brewers RHP Yovani Gallardo (9-9, 4.61) will start Thursday night against Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole (6-6, 3.81) in the finale of the three-game series.
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